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Mister Bipartisan

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AP
AP

Among the many jaw-dropping moments in the first presidential debate, this was the one where my jaw bounced on the floor a couple of times before bouncing back into my head. Mitt the Right-Wing Zealot had etch-a-sketched himself back to Mitt the Moderate, and he used his success as governor of Massachusetts on health care to do the job. Why, don't look at that man who ran in the Republican primaries! Look over here, at Mister Bipartisan!

Nobody seems to be paying attention to the Deep Crazy here. On the one hand, Romney's Massachusetts health care plan is absolutely fantastic, and proof positive that he cares about poor people and the working poor who need health care. It's a great plan, it insures children, and it's bipartisan, too! Governor Romney and the Democratic majority in the state legislature worked very, very hard to create this wonderful plan, and we know that it works! But don't make it the "national model," because... why??

Watch the sleight of hand going on here. Mitt moved from his earlier position, that this could be "a national model," to a position that makes no sense logically: the Massachusetts plan was good just for the state of Massachusetts! Other states might come up with other plans that might be even better, because, um, well, just because! And, the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution!

Why this switcheroo? It can't be the national model, only because the die-hard Tea Party Republicans decided that, since Obama supported it, then, by golly, it must be the devil's work. It must be the embodiment of that awful Bogeyman of Big Government. It takes away Individual Freedom! And, the Tenth Amendment!

And how do the Tea Party Republicans feel about bipartisan cooperation?

Let's look more closely at the big issues in the first presidential debate: taxes, the deficit, and entitlements. How does the Tea Party want to balance the budget? By budget cuts, big, juicy, fat ones. Cutting Big Bird? A drop in the bucket. Nonpartisan think tanks have said many, many times, the only way to get a balanced federal budget without raising taxes is to go after "entitlement" spending. And by entitlements, we don't just mean welfare payments to the poor: we mean the entitlements that just about everybody in America wants and needs. The only way to really take a big bite out of the deficit without raising taxes it to go after Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

That's how bipartisan Mitt's party is, and if that sounds like a joke, it is. It's a joke Mitt Romney is trying to get away with, and so far, he's been making a clean getaway from the scene of his rhetorical crime. Yes, Mitt was once able to do something bipartisan, working with a state legislature that was, indeed, mostly full of Democrats. What, pray tell, does this have to do with Mitt's chances to work bipartisan magic as President Tea Party? This is the classic "apples and oranges" comparison. When it is said on television, flying out of Mitt's mouth at nearly the speed of sound, by golly, it sounds super-bipartisan! Want to end gridlock? Elect Mitt! But slow the argument down, and it falls apart.

And how bipartisan was Governor Romney, on the million other issues that came before the governor and the legislature? According to Michael Widmer, a spokesman from the nonpartisan Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation, "health care was a rare exception where he worked with the legislature in his state... Widmer says the legislature was 'frustrated usually' with Romney because he wanted to govern like a 'CEO' and 'didn't pay heed to the legislature and they resented that.'" I found that tidbit while reading the ABC News article "Fact Checking the Presidential Debate in Denver" on the web. That's why ABC News labeled the "bipartisan Romney" claims as "Not Quite Factual." I would go a step further. Mitt Romney's act as Mister Bipartisan is part of a deliberate strategy to lie as fast as he can, as long as he can. I am waiting for the media to catch up to him.